© 2020 by Ruth Parchment CBT Cambridge

  • Ruth Parchment

The difference between support and “toxic positivity”

Feeling supported is key in helping people through difficult and distressing times; how support is given can make a significant difference. Some actions may on the surface seem helpful and from a place of good intentions, but in reality can have detrimental effects on people who are suffering. Expecting someone to be positive when they are feeling negative can actually have the opposite effect as one study found. Another study found that when people with low-self esteem repeated the positive self-statement, "I am lovable", they actually felt worse. In my clinical work I find that when self-statements are not genuine or meaningful they produce little room for growth. More support comes from understanding, validating, nurture, empathy and kindness. “When we’re supporting someone who’s hurting, we need to leave room for positivity to grow. You don’t yell at a flower to “just” grow — you water it. In this case, you water it with listening, with

validation, and with unconditional support. It’s OK to experience negative emotions, and with support, we can help people who are stuck in negativity find their own way out. Simply telling them to “be positive” doesn’t cut it...”. Read more.


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